Reunion by Hannah Pittard

Reunion

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This is a new author to me.  If you enjoy reading about estranged and dysfunctional families, then I think you would enjoy this one — I did. It’s a quick read and told through the narration of the main character, Kate Pulaski.

The first line of the book is, “On June 16, at roughly eight-thirty in the morning, I get the phone call that my father is dead,” which makes you want to keep reading.  At least I did.

Kate’s life is pretty well in shambles before she finds out about her father’s suicidal death.  Her siblings tell her she has to travel to Atlanta for the funeral, which she can neither afford nor wants to face.  The book covers the next four days of her coping with face-to-face encounters with her four stepmothers and many half-siblings.  As Kate haphazardly deals with her messed up life, she also comes to terms with her relationship with her father.  The book has sibling relationships, adultery, childhood issues, and so much more, so enjoy.

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The Husband’s Secret by Liane Moriarty

The Husband's Secret

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If you found a letter addressed to you with instructions that you weren’t to open it until a certain event had happened, would you go ahead and read it anyway?  Well, that’s the basis of this novel.  It intertwines the lives of three families when one of the main characters finds a letter addressed to her by her husband, to be read only upon his death.  So does she read the letter (he’s still alive)?  What’s in this letter?

The novel deals with how life can hinge on a misunderstanding or a decision made in haste and the consequences it can have. It deals with putting all the pieces of a puzzle together plus an action that brings everything out into the open.  I enjoyed this book.  I had read Liane Moriarty’s newest book, Big Little Liars, so I decided to read some of her earlier works. Glad I did.

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The Queen of the Tearling by Erika Johansen

The Queen of the Tearling

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I really enjoyed The Queen of the Tearling.  It has a heavy basis in fairy tale—the young princess hidden deep in the woods, the evil queen, the magical jewel—but it is fairy tale in a Snow White and the Huntsman meets The Hunger Games kind of way.  The adventure rolled along from page one, and I had trouble putting it down.

Amidst revolution and political strife, Princess Kelsea is hidden away in the woods until she reaches the age of nineteen, when she is to ascend the throne as Queen of the Tearling.  But first she has to reach the castle alive, then overthrow her nasty uncle, the prince regent.  On her nineteenth birthday, the Queen’s guard, formerly sworn to protect Kelsea’s mother, arrives to escort her to the land of the Tearling.  Kelsea endures the guards’ disrespect, treacherous travel conditions, and the constant threat of ambush and assassination to reach the castle and face her uncle, the fawning puppet of the powerful and nasty Red Queen of neighboring Mortmense.  With the help of some allies (and the aforementioned magic jewel), but mostly by her own wits and courage, Kelsea comes into her own.

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Kabul Beauty School: An American Woman Goes Behind the Veil by Deborah Rodriguez

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An American woman, a hairdresser by trade, goes to Afghanistan as part of an humanitarian mission and finds that her skills are in big demand. The thing I was struck by is that the women are willing to pursue an education at great cost to themselves – one woman is beaten daily by her husband for going to school, another young girl has to stop her schooling because her family sold her to be married.  It’s truly amazing the lengths that these very proud women will go to for an education.  I was less impressed with the author who chose to leave her own two children behind with family in the United States AND then chose to sign up for an arranged marriage with a man from Afghanistan! Needless to say, her brash and bold ways were not always accepted by her new husband!

This was a very enlightening book to me and made me very aware of how lucky we are in the United States to be able to pursue an education without fear of being persecuted.

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The Selection (series) by Kiera Cass

The Selection

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As I did with Divergent, I waited until the third book of this trilogy was about to be released before I started to read the first book. I didn’t want to be stuck waiting (most likely impatiently) for the release of the final book of the series as I am with the Lunar Chronicles.  But, lo and behold, it seems all my planning was for naught… because there’s now a FOURTH book!  Even though the audiobook for The Selection Stories: The Prince & The Guard had a sneak peek of The One — which it touted as the “thrilling conclusion” to the trilogy — I now have to wait until MAY 2015 to get my hands on The Heir… And I have a sneaking suspicion things won’t even end there since GoodReads lists a 5th (currently unnamed) book. /sigh

So, what’s the big deal about this series?  First of all, it’s a dystopian romance.  Enough said, right?!?  OK.  OK!  I get that some of you might want to know what sets this apart from the rest of the dystopian romances out there, so I will give a little more background. :-)  In this dystopian future, the USA no longer exists.  In its place, there is now the kingdom of Illéa.  When Illéa was formed, a rigid caste system was created — in a supposed effort to bring about order and security.  The castes, which range from one (royalty and clergy) to eight (homeless, runaways, etc.), dictate which type of jobs people can hold.  Although it is technically possible to get into a better caste by buying your way up, it’s practically impossible for the lower castes to do more than survive.  For America Singer (and the other girls participating in The Selection ), though, marrying Prince Maxon could mean being instantly transformed to a one.  So why, then, would America NOT want to participate in The Selection?  This book is like an über version of The Bachelor with a side of uprisings and war… and I just can’t get enough!

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I Have a Bad Feeling About This by Jeff Strand

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As I was reading this book, I laughed out loud so often that my son — who normally “tunes out” the rest of the world when he reads — actually found it distracting to read in the same room as me.  He kept asking me, “What’s so funny?”  And, though I explained that I didn’t want to stop to share every joke that made me laugh, I offered to start over and read the whole book aloud.  He declined the offer because he was determined to finish the book he was already reading, but I think he may go back and read it himself because he loved the passage I felt compelled to read aloud (about Henry’s wish list of weapons with which he could have protected himself).

Strongwoods Survival Camp was like an even more ridiculous version of Camp Green Lake (from Holes by Louis Sachar).  Rather than being a forced-labor juvenile detention center, though, this survival camp was advertized as a way for parents to voluntarily toughen up their “wuss” sons.  The guy who ran the camp, Max, was basically a crazy drill sergeant, and the survival activities and games he designed were way over the top.  I think a lot of parents will probably appreciate the lack of harsh language and/or sexual situations, though I feel compelled to warn sensitive readers about the actual killers who make an appearance before the end of camp.  Fast-paced action, lots of humor, and short chapters punctuated with wacky “Wilderness Survival Tips” combine to form a zany adventure story that’s appropriate for younger teens and tweens but entertaining enough for adults.

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Binky the Space Cat by Ashley Spires

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I love Binky the Space Cat!  Binky is a well-fed black and white house pet.  He loves his family and he absolutely hates bugs – space bugs, that is.  His goal in life is to become a space cat.  When he receives notification that he has been accepted into the F.U.R.S.T. (Felines of the Universe Ready for Space Travel) program, he is thrilled.  Binky seems to think that space is outdoors and that bugs are space monsters, but never mind – with the help of his little cat toy Ted, he will succeed in building a space ship.  With a grade level of 2 to 5, for ages 7 to 10, this is one of those books that cat lovers of all ages will enjoy.  The illustrations are charming and there are additional entries in the series so fans can follow Binky’s further adventures – although the first book is arguably the best.

 

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